Early-life short-term environmental enrichment counteracts the effects of stress on anxiety-like behavior, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and nuclear translocation of glucocorticoid receptors in the basolateral amygdala

Sci Rep. 2020 Aug 20;10(1):14053. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-70875-5.


Early life is a decisive stage for the development of physiological and psychological characteristics of an individual. Any stress or disruption of healthy development at this stage has serious long-lasting consequences for the remaining life. Unfortunately, early life stress is a common occurrence in humans and other animals. In this context, we investigated if the provision of environmental enrichment during the pre-weaning phase of rat pups and dams could alter the consequences of early-life maternal-separation stress. Pre-weaning enrichment rescued the effects of maternal separation on the excess secretion of adrenal stress hormones and anxiety-like behavior during adulthood. Enrichment also reduced the effect of stress on the spine density of basolateral amygdala neurons, a brain region critical for stress-induced facilitation of emotional behaviors. Pre-weaning enrichment, provided during early-life, blunted the effects of maternal separation stress on decreased intra-nuclear translocation of glucocorticoid receptors within the amygdala neurons when tested later in adulthood. Early-life, pre-weaning environmental enrichment also increased the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor within adult basolateral amygdala. Our observations showed that environmental manipulation during early formative years could be utilized to build lifelong resilience to stress. Complex naturalistic housing and sensory enrichment is, thus, an useful buffer against an impoverished and stressful childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Protein Transport
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological*


  • Bdnf protein, rat
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid